Health and Fitness

Why Would you Eat if you are not Hungry?

I was asked this question last week.  By someone who is an intuitive eater.  I travelled on the bus with a fellow health coach last week to attend the Institute of Integrative Nutrition’s Fall IINto Action conference in New York City.  As we were chatting, I was telling her my story – I talked about how I spent most of my life compulsively and binge eating, always either on or off a diet, and constantly battling my weight, and therefore battling with myself.  I also told her how I am now practicing intuitive and mindful eating by asking myself “Am I Hungry?” before eating, eating slowly and savoring each bite, and stopping when I’ve had enough.  I explained to her that my goal was to practice living my life more mindfully, and become a facilitator for the Am I Hungry mindful eating program early next year to add to my health coaching practice.  And then she asked that question.

I had a hard time answering her.  I looked at her for a moment as if she had two heads.  Of course I know why people eat when they are not hungry.  But I had never been asked that question before.  Most people I know eat when they are not hungry – either for emotional reasons, boredom, the clock, out of habit or any of dozens of other reasons.  I also know that eating intuitively is natural for some people. But there are a lot of people out there who struggle with this – eating for every reason other than being hungry, usually looking for the next best diet.  Learning to eat intuitively is hard for someone who has spent there lives on the pendulum of either restricting or overeating.  But is is so worth it. To be at peace with yourself, not constantly thinking about your next meal, even before you finish the one you are eating.

Health and Fitness

Mindful Movement

As part of my quest to be a mindful eater, I am also challenging myself to add mindful movement into my day.  For the past several years, I’ve experienced some physical challenges that have contributed to significantly reducing the amount of movement I do on a daily basis.  For those who have been reading this blog for a while you know that I had severe osteoarthritis in my right hip, and underwent a total hip replacement a little more than a year and a half ago.  And while the surgery was a success and I no longer have pain in my hip, it did result in a leg length discrepancy of 3/4″ which has caused other challenges for me, particularly in my feet and knees.

When I travel to my NYC office at least once a week, the bus station is about 1 mile from my office.  Until a couple of years ago, I always looked forward to the walk to and from the office – on the way into the office, it helped me gear up for the day and on the way back to the bus station, I had the opportunity to let go of all of the stress of the day.  Because of these physical challenges, I started taking the city bus across town in both directions.  I had been doing this until very recently.

As my foot and knee pain is starting to resolve, due to some body work and stretching, I started adding mindful movement into my day.  Notice I said nothing about exercise.  I now walk a lot more often, including the walk to and from my office.  I’ve added yoga to my life and attend a gentle yoga class most Sunday mornings.  I take the time to stretch on a daily basis.  I do things that are fun.

Not only am I feeling better, now that I’m moving more, I’m also feeling a lot more energetic.  I’m sleeping better.  I encourage everybody reading this to find some type of movement that they enjoy.  Walk.  Do yoga.  Stretch.  Turn up the music and dance.  Play with your children.  Or play like a child.  Anything to get yourself moving.

Health and Fitness

Which Would You Rather be – A Mermaid or a Whale?

The following was posted by Delphine Fieberg on Facebook the other day.  I was so blown away by it, I wanted to share it with all of you.

A while back, at the entrance of a gym, there was a picture of a very thin and beautiful woman. The caption was “This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?”

The story goes, a woman (of clothing size unknown) answered the following way:

Dear people, whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, seals, curious humans), they are sexually active and raise their children with great tenderness.  They entertain like crazy with dolphins and eat lots of prawns. They swim all day and travel to fantastic places like Patagonia, the Barents Sea or the coral reefs of Polynesia.  They sing incredibly well and sometimes even are on cds. They are impressive and dearly loved animals, which everyone defend and admires.

Mermaids do not exist.

But if they existed, they would line up to see a psychologist because of a problem of split personality: woman or fish?  They would have no sex life and could not bear children.  Yes, they would be lovely, but lonely and sad.  And, who wants a girl that smells like fish by his side?

Health and Fitness

My Own Personal Hurricane

I spent the last four days at Dr. Michelle May’s Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating retreat in southern Arizona.  Being on a remote ranch in the low desert, I was away from the devastation of Hurricane Irene on the east coast.  I live in New Jersey and felt very disconnected while my husband went through this alone with three nervous pets.  Fortunately we did not lose power and our house did not sustain any damage.  I didn’t let this feeling take away from what I was experiencing at the retreat.

As I’ve written about in the past I’ve been on a path to become an intuitive eater for the past 2.5 years.  I had either been on a diet or off a diet for most of my life until I decided that diets just don’t work.  Of course they work when you stick to them – you lose weight.  But for many (dare I say most) dieters, once the diet is over, or you get frustrated because the weight isn’t coming off as quickly as you’d like or you blew it one day so you might as well give up or hundreds of other reasons, the weight comes back, oftentimes more than you lost.  If people went on a diet, lost the weight, and the weight stayed off, the diet industry would be out of business.

Since I started investigating and practicing on this path, I’ve actually gained weight.  But I’ve learned a lot.  Both about the process and about myself.  I’ve learned there is no such thing as good food and bad food.  Food is something that we need to nourish out bodies and get pleasure from.  I’ve learned that we don’t need nearly as much food as most of us think we do.  I’ve learned that I don’t like feeling overstuffed, because I’ve eaten too much.  I’ve learned that food does not make me feel better when I’m feeling sad or stressed or tired or bored.  Stuffing the feelings down, only make it worse in the long run.

While I learned so much over the past 2.5 years, I also felt that I needed help putting it into practice.  As a health coach, a number of my clients have learned to eat more mindfully.  Some have lost weight and some haven’t, but they’ve all made strides towards making peace with food and making peace with themselves.  Unfortunately, I was having trouble walking the walk and talking the talk, so I didn’t feel as if Iwas being authentic – how could I tell someone how to do something if I’m having trouble doing it myself?

So I decided to attend this retreat and be surrounded by like-minded people and people who’ve become successful intuitive eaters.  I’ve admired Dr. May since I read her book, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat and I knew I could learn so much from her.  And I did.  I feel like I had my own personal hurricane.  My thoughts and feelings were swirling and shifting all over the place, and by the end of the weekend I was feeling really good about myself for the first time in a very long time.  I have learned so much, and I will be writing and sharing about a lot of it over the next couple of weeks.  I made some huge shifts – I realized that by eating mindfully and really enjoying what I’m eating, I don’t need to eat nearly as much as I thought I did before.  I realized that food tastes so much better if you are actually hungry for it and you are eating what you love.  I realized that I need to establish a self-care routine and make time for myself in my busy day.  And so much more.

I became a health coach because I wanted to spread the message that you can lose weight and be healthy without dieting.  However, unless I was doing it myself, I couldn’t be authentic to you.  So for the next few months, I will be working on me.  I will continue to practice what I learned at the retreat (without the scorpions) and I will continue to work towards accepting myself and this new way of living and thriving.  Towards the end of the year, I intend to become an Am I Hungry? facilitator and join Dr. May and the other facilitators to bring this message to the world, via local workshops and webinars.  And I will incorporated this into my health coaching practice and work one-on-one to help people work through their own issues.  I will be writing more about this and I’m so excited to share this process.

Health and Fitness

Happy New Year!!

I want to start off this post by wishing everyone a happy, healthy, safe and prosperous New Year. Another year has come and gone. We are now into the second decade of the 21st century. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that time goes so quickly. So we must savor all of those moments because we can never get them back again.

Many people start off the year by making New Years resolutions. And for so many people, their resolution is to lose weight, go to the gym, get healthier, etc. I was a member of Weight Watchers for many years. Those of us who were regulars knew that you had to get their early to get your regular seat for the first meeting of the year, because it was usually going to be standing room only. And then the next week, it was still pretty crowded, but there were definitely fewer people than were there before. And each week for the next few weeks the crowds would dwindle until we were back to our usual number of people. It was also the same thing at the gym – even at 5:00am it was hard to get the machine you wanted because there were so many new people there during the first few weeks of the new year.

I think it is great that so many people use this time to commit to a new and healthier lifestyle. They look at it as a fresh beginning. So why do so many people abandon their resolutions so quickly? I think it’s a combination of several things. First of all, most people don’t set specific goals. They set goals like “I’m going to lose weight” or “I’m going to get in shape”. They also set goals that are not easily achievable, such as “I’m going to lose 20 pounds in a month” or “I’m going to go to the gym 7 days a week for 2 hours a day”. Goals must be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable and Time-oriented. And while most people make their resolutions, they don’t truly intend to follow them.

A few years ago, I stopped declaring New Year’s resolutions. I started to set my New Year’s intentions. An intention is how you want to live – it is about what you intend to do. I list them on a piece of paper and hang them in a place where I will see them all the time, so I can constantly refer to them and never forget them. I spend a few minutes everyday, visualizing the outcomes of these intentions. By always thinking about them in a positive way, I will be putting those intentions out to the universe. And I’m going to list them here. By putting them out in public for all to see I am committing to my readers what I intend to do in 2011 and what I expect my life to be like by the end of 2011.

My intentions for 2011:

* I eat foods that are closer to their points of origin
* I am an active person who enjoys movement
* My weight is where my body wants it to be
* I listen to what my body needs and eat only when I’m truly hungry
* I always eat mindfully and in a dignified manner

So what are your intentions for the New Year? What would you like your life to be at the start of 2012?

Health and Fitness

Calm Eating

In my path of learning to be an intuitive eater, I’ve committed to not eat anything until I take a few deep breaths in order to put myself into a relaxed state.  And once I start eating, I slow down, chew my food fully and be conscious and mindful of every bite.  By doing this I find that I reduce my levels of stress before eating anything and keep the levels of stress down during my meal.  This focuses a majority of my energy on digestion, where I want it to be.  There are still times when I eat mindlessly.  While I have significantly reduced the amount and frequency of mindless eating, it still happens from time to time.  By pausing to take several deep breaths before eating, I am taking a few minutes to consider if this is something I really want to do, and make the eating more mindful and purposeful.  And by eating slowly and calmly, and taking the time to fully chew my food, I will enjoy the taste so much more, and notice that I have had enough food and not overeat.

We have all heard of the “fight or flight” response.  This comes from our ancestors – when they hunted for their food, the body was programmed to give all of its energy to escaping from potential danger.  If energy during those times was being used to digest food, then they wouldn’t have enough energy to run, and might become another creature’s dinner.  The opposite response is called “rest and digest”.  When we are calm and quiet, our energy is mainly focused on digesting our food.  After that big Thanksgiving dinner, when everyone is laid out on the couch, the “rest and digest” response is in full control.

In today’s society, so many of us are overly stressed so much of the time by so many factors, many of which are beyond our control.  I know I feel like I am under constant stress and often find it very hard to relax.  When we are so stressed, the body doesn’t know the difference between getting stuck in traffic or watching the depressing news on TV or the tiger that’s about to eat us.  By being in this constant state of stress, our energy is not directed to digesting our food.  And this results in weight gain (or more difficulty in losing weight), indigestion and heartburn and we don’t absorb the nutrients in the food we are eating.  If we just put ourselves into a calm state before (and while) eating, then our energy will be where it needs to be.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to maybe lose a few pounds, not have digestive issues and know that we are taking in the vitamins and minerals in our food.  Think how much healthier our society would be by just taking a few deep breaths before every meal and eating that meal slowly and mindfully.

Health and Fitness

Margaret Cho’s F*&% It Diet

I was recently made aware of a blog post written by Margaret Cho in 2003. The name of the post is The F*&% it Diet. She talks about how she was sick and tired of dieting and working out, buying clothes that were too small so she could “thin” into them, and thinking about food and not thinking about food.

While the blog post is peppered with the “F” word , there is one paragraph that I am going to repost (probably the only part of her post without any cursing), that says it all to me.

“Then, I kind of started to get weirdly thinner. I get it now. Because I don’t care about food, it is there when I want it, I don’t crave it and want it and think about it. Since I can have everything, nothing is that important. I don’t need to eat a whole cake because I can eat a whole cake every day every meal if I want and I don’t care. I don’t prepare to eat because I might be hungry later and ‘they’ won’t have what I have to eat. When I am hungry, I eat. You know, that is what the weird diet is.”

And then later in the post she writes “I never deny myself a f*&%ing thing because I have denied myself enough for a thousand lifetimes and there is no more denial for me in the way that I live.”

I gave up dieting about 2 years ago and I’ve gained some weight while experimenting and finding what works best for me.  It’s been really hard to rid myself totally of the diet mentality, as it has been one of the ways I’ve defined myself for most of my life.  I am getting closer to the point where I just don’t care about food.  Margaret sums it up perfectly for me.

Health and Fitness

Eating With Your Eyes

I’m sure everyone has heard that you get full satisfaction from food when you use all of your senses, rather than only taste – you also need to use sight, smell, touch and sound.  If you take the time to appreciate the food in front of you with all of your senses, not only will you enjoy it that much more, but you will truly be satisfied.  And when you are satisfied, it is easier to know when to stop.

I had lunch today with a former colleague from my bank’s Sao Paulo, Brazil branch.  We went to a local Japanese restaurant.  They had a salmon carpaccio on the menu, which we ordered to share.  We ordered a similar carpaccio with fluke when I was here in August of 2009.  In both instances, the presentation was magnificent.  I spent about 5 minutes just looking at it and taking in the presentation (and of course taking a picture so I can share it).  After eating half of it, sharing it with my colleague, I didn’t need to eat anything else.  I felt fully satisfied.